There’s a new food truck parked under the Brooklyn Bridge: it’s big, it’s bright yellow, it’s... disturbingly bulbous, and it’s giving out hot dogs — with your choice of ketchup or mustard — for free.
Designed to resemble a curvaceous Volkswagen microbus, Hot Dog Bus is a piece of mobile art that was commissioned by the New York City Public Art Fund from Austrian artist Erwin Wurm. Through the end of summer, visitors are invited to approach this bloated cousin of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and the Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro and snag one free all-beef hot dog per day. The Public Art Fund estimates that 50,000 hot dogs will be given out by the end of the exhibition.
But the question remains: what the hell is wrong with this bus?
Wurm has been stretching cars out, folding them over, and puffing them up in his artwork since 2001. To him, cars don’t just protect us and move us around; they also define our identity and can be a representation of who we want to be. Presenting them in this distorted light is a way to make museumgoers (or hotdog-eaters) think not only about how they see cars in general, but also the glossy, consumerist culture that cars represent.
To give this van its lurid lemon lumps, Wurm packed different types of styrofoam and putty on top of an ordinary VW T2, and sprayed it with a glossy coat of car paint. He calls the result a “mechanical system that turned into a biological system — like some deformed, obese thing.”
Wurm doesn’t intend to criticize fatness with his pieces. Instead, he says he’s interested in fat the same way some sculptors are interested in clay — as a sculptural tool. That’s his main motivation for giving out free, greasy wieners: they turn human beings into a kind of living work of art, too. “I strongly believe that we, as human beings, are all sculptures,” he said, “and that gaining or losing weight is like a sculptural work.”
Seeing a soft, squishy vehicle out in the open is absurd, almost like it’s a cartoon come to life. But there’s also something deeply unsettling about Hot Dog Bus and sculptures like it. Packing the pounds onto these anthropomorphized vehicles thrusts them into an uncanny valley between the familiar vehicles we see driving around every day, and living, breathing beings.
For those of you who want to see the wobbling work of art, it’s on view Saturdays and Sundays in Brooklyn Bridge Park through August 26th.